Two weeks ago I introduced the topic that I will be spending the next few weeks on. A topic that probably addresses one of the most important aspects of retail management. One that not only can generate revenue but also one that could potentially loose hundreds of dollars for your business. The topic that I am speaking of, is that of “Staffing”. Having a good staffing strategy will not only save you money, but will create an atmosphere that your customers will appreciate. This week I want to discuss hiring the right employee.
The first step to building a talented, loyal and customer service oriented staff is to hire them. This week I will walk through several key steps you should take when hiring for your store.
The ABC’s of Hiring The Right Employee’s:
A) Publishing your Job Listing
While no one likes a poor economy, one of the benefits of 8.4% unemployment rate (June 2012) is that the pool of potential candidates is much larger. Last year, there was a local rumor that a certain restaurant posted a job opening in the local classifieds, on their website and various employment websites as well as several other locations, for a part time dishwasher position with a minimum wage base pay. Within 3 days of the posting this restaurant had over 250 applicants apply for the position. Although I do not know for sure whether this story is accurate it does illustrate the point that there are people looking for even the most menial jobs.
As an employer this is gives you the option to be picky about who you hire and that you you don’t have to hire the first person to apply for the position. The trick is to make sure people know that your company is hiring. There are several ways to do this…
Traditionally retailers have opted to post their job openings in local newspapers, and while this is still a viable option, it can be costly and the reach of the posting is limited to only the people who subscribe to the newspaper. It might be worth exploring the following options:
In the store – (free)
One of the best places to advertise your need for employees is right in your store. Keep a stack of job applications publicly available so that applicants can come in and grab one or so that current customers can take them and hand them to a friend to fill out.
Store Website – (Free)
Today many people are performing their entire job search on the internet. This means that you should have your posting listed somewhere on the web, one location that should always be used is your stores website. Keep a page dedicated to listing current job openings as well as a form that prospects can either print and fill out or submit right through the website.
Social Networking Sites – (Free)
If you use social networking to any degree than you are well aware of its ability to rapidly distribute information. While I would be hesitant to hire a personal friend for my business, social networking sites such as linked in, twitter & Facebook offer you the ability to share with your followers that you are in need of help.
http://www.craigslist.com – (Free)
While not necessarily “Hidden”, I consider craigslist to be the “Hidden Jewel” of the internet. Craigslist gives you the option to post current job openings for both part time and full time employment opportunities as well as for temporary positions. In addition many people upload their resumes right to the site. Spend a few minutes sifting through these before posting your position, you might just find the right person.
https://www.vermontjoblink.com/ – (Free – Government Sponsored)
For those who live in Vermont, there is a great website called Vermont Job Link, where you can upload full online job listings for the positions you are looking to fill. The site is government sponsored, so because of this you will need your EIN number as well as other company information before posting. After you set up an account with VT Job Link, listing your opening is easy and typically you get several responses right away depending on the position. Like cragslist, Vermont Job Link also has a database with resumes that you can look through if you do not wish to publicly post the position.
Newspaper – (Print – Varies)
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most traditional ways to advertise a job listing is through the local newspaper. I would recommend choosing a weekly paper that is distributed to every household free of charge. In Barre VT this would be “The World” or the “Extra”. Most areas have this type of paper. If you do choose to post in a paid subscription newspaper I would recommend advertising on the weekend, as more people are likely to see the post.
http://www.indeed.com/ – (Pay Per Click – $0.25 – $1.25)
Indeed is another repository of local resumes, however they also have a great listing service. It is unique to the fact that you only pay when people click on the listing details. This means that the money you pay for the listing is going towards people who are really interested in the position.
http://www.monster.com – (30 Day – $210)
Monster.com is the most widely used and most popular job listing platform on the internet. Many other job search engines use postings that are from monster.com. This means that your posting will be seen by the widest possible audience. When it comes to most exposure, I highly recommend monster.com. However monster.com is relatively expensive and would be a better investment if you are looking to fill a skilled position such as management (rather than for cashiers, shelf stocking, janitorial etc.). Also Monster.com publishes the add for 30 days, whether you hire the position or not, this means that, in the rare case that you do not find a qualified candidate, that you are SOL on your investment.
http://www.careerbuilder.com/ – (Until Position Filled – $419)
Career Builder is similar to monster in that it is widely used and that it offers wide publication, also it offers the ability to pay one price for the listing until your hire the position.
Temp Agencies – (Price Varies)
One alternative option is to use a temporary employment agency to do part of the leg work for you. They not only act as an initial filtering mechanism, but they also give you an “out” in the event that you hire the employee but run into problems down the road. There are other benefits, as well as downsides, to using temp agencies. Thomas McHugh, Hibbert & McGee’s President, will be publishing an article discussing temp agencies next week.
Finally before moving on I would like to also suggest the idea of “continuously hiring”. This does not mean that you are adding new employees every week, but rather that you always except job applications. Often times, when if comes time to hire employees you need them ASAP and by having a stack of applications in hand you can speed up the process.
B) The initial resume sift
Hopefully if you have done your job right within a few days you will have a stack of resumes sitting on your desk. By this time you really need to fill the position because the lines in your store are backing up and you can’t keep your shelves stocked. While you may be tempted to just skip right to the interview process, you will save yourself a lot of time and headache if you sit down and do an initial sifting of the resumes / applications. Your goal should be to weed out unqualified candidates and to identify potential employees.
The first step is to evaluate how the application is presented, you can tell a lot about a person by the condition of their application. Does it have coffee stains on it, is the script legible, how often is a word or set of words scratched out and re-written, are all the questions answered. All these things show the character of a person – whether they are organized or messy, articulate or unintelligible, professional or uncaring. The right candidate will take the time to fill out an application completely and present it in a way that looks well-polished. If the application is dirty, un-readable and incomplete, odds are that the person behind the resume is the same way.
Next, does the person meet the basic minimum required criteria for the job position? This means, if it is a computer position, can they operate a computer? If it is a regulated position, do they have the required licenses? If it requires skills or tasks that require a certain age, is the person old enough (many deli positions require using equipment that legally must be operated by workers older than 18). Consider only the bare minimum requirements, but not necessarily preferences or subjective qualifications. This means that while someone may not have experience on your specific POS system they may have used a similar software and as such will learn your system quickly. Also if you choose to evaluate educational requirements during this step, consider that in some instances experience can trump education. Personally I would rather hire someone who has 5+ years of experience over a fresh college graduate. I highly recommend that you do not choose whether or not to interview someone solely on their educational status.
C) Calling References
This initial weeding out should leave you with several options, but its not time to call them in for an interview yet. Instead, call their references AND former employers. Even the best looking resume may have the worst employee behind it. By calling the people that the applicant lists you can get a better picture of who they are as a person.
- Why did (name) leave the company?
- What was her/his starting and ending salary?
- What was her/his position? Can you describe the job responsibilities?
- Could I briefly review (name’s) resume? Does the job title and job description match the position that (name) held?
- Did (name) miss a lot of work? Was s/he frequently late? Were there any issues you are aware of that impacted her/his job performance?
- Did s/he get along well with management and co-workers?
- Was (name) promoted while with your company?
- Did (name) supervise other employees? How effectively? If I spoke to those employees, how do you think they would describe (name’s) management style?
- How did (name) handle conflict? How about pressure? Stress?
- Did you evaluate (name’s) performance? Can you speak to his/her strong and weak points? What was noted as needing improvement during this performance review?
- What was (name’s) biggest accomplishment while working for your company?
- Would you rehire (name) if the opportunity arose?
- If I describe the position we are hiring for to you, could you describe how good a fit you think (name) would be for the position?
- Can you describe this person’s experience working as a member of a team?
- Would you comment on his/her:
- Ability to take on responsibility:
- Ability to follow instructions:
- Degree of supervision needed:
- Overall attitude:
- Quality of work:
- Quantity of work:
- Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with me?
- Should I hire this person?
While I wouldn’t discount one or even two bad answers to these questions, if the overall result gives you the impression that this is not a person that you want in your company than there is no need to bring them in for an interview. If you do choose to bring them in for an interview approach them on the issue, ask them why it is that their references came back as less than ideal.
One of the most skipped steps in the hiring process is this step; calling references. This is an unfortunate thing, since with a little leg work, you can take advantage of other peoples experience and avoid bad employees. Also by calling references before you have the applicant for in for an interview you not only save time, you know exactly what you are walking into. In my opinion this is one of the most important steps of any hiring strategy.
D) The Interview
Last year I attended a conference in Seattle. While there I had the privilege to sit in on several workshops conducted by Wes Herman, a highly successful business man who, in the period of 10 years, built a multi-million dollar coffee empire spanning 10 stores all over the North West. Mr. Herman attributes his success to his hiring practices. During the workshop he described a hiring process that makes you wonder how anyone would be hired to work at his company. One of the most memorable pieces of his lecture was when he discussed the timing of his interviews. After Herman had weeded out every person who had a flaw he would call all the candidates for an interview at 4 O’clock in the morning. “I run a coffee shop, if your not awake and able to function at 4 in the morning, I don’t need you” said Herman. Before the interview he would have the candidates sit on a bench outside his office and would then observe their behavior. Were they friendly and social to each other, were they dressed clean and professional, were they falling asleep or attentive to their surroundings?
While very few businesses will have a need to conduct their interviews at 4:00 in the morning, the point that I am trying to make is that you can put the interviewee in the environment that they will be working in and then examine how they react to it.
So after you let the candidate sweat it out for a few minutes and you’ve had time to observe them, introduce yourself, tell them a little about the company and walk them around the store. After the introduction bring them into a quite environment where both you and the person you are interviewing have the ability to communicate clearly. At this point its time to get out your note book and start asking the hard hitting questions. Below are some of my favorites. But check out the premium section for a full list of great interview questions that can give you insight into the person’s character, work ethic, history and other aspects of their life.
Questions about Work History:
- Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment.
- What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?
- What were your starting and final levels of compensation?
- What were your responsibilities?
- What problems have you encountered at work?
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
- Who was your best boss and who was the worst?
- Why are you leaving your job?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What is your greatest strength?
- How will your greatest strength help you perform?
- How do you handle stress and pressure?
- What motivates you?
- Are you a self motivator?
- If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it?
- Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.
- If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently?
- If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?
New Job Questions:
- What interests you about this job?
- Why do you want this job?
- What applicable attributes / experience do you have?
- What can you do for this company?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- What is good customer service?
- How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?
After you have worked through the list of questions, it is time to introduce the candidate to some of the more basic store policies. This is especially important if you notice something that may be an issue when it comes time to actually hire the person. If your store has a dress code, ask if the candidate would be able to conform to it. Go over basic disciplinary principles, such as a three strike policy or worst shift rotation. Go over brief customer service policies. The reasons for going over these now, is to be able to identify right off if there will be a problem. Its better to know that the employee will not be willing to cover his or her forearm tattoo’s before you hire them instead of waiting until its to late.
Finally, let them know that you will call them back if you are interested in having a second interview. This leaves the door open for you to bring them in for a second interview in the event that your first choice doesn’t work out.
E) The Decision
By the time you are through 4 or 5 interviews odds are will have filled up an entire legal pad of paper with notes. Take these back to your office and look them over. While there is no one way to identify the “perfect” fit, one way that I would recommend would be to purchase two different colored highlighters. Use one of the highlighters to highlight aspects of each employee that you liked, use the other one to highlight aspects that you did not. This gives you a way to identify valuable skills and personality traits and weigh them against the cons that you took note of.
In the end the decision is up to you. Create a pile of your favorite candidates in order of preference then pick up the phone and call the first person on the top of the list for the second interview.
F) The second Interview
Most of the second interview is for the purpose of formality. Unless its a highly skilled position you are hiring for, you should have made up your mind on whether you are going to hire the candidate or not. Use this interview to confirm the authenticity of the person’s behavior. Do they act the same way in the second interview as they did in the first? Are they still carrying themselves in a way that is professional and courteous? If not you may not want to continue the interview.
Also use this interview to explain company policy in detail. If you have one, present the person with your employee handbook (If you don’t have one, I highly recommend one). Have them read it over and return it to you on their first day of work (Make sure they sign it, acknowledging that they will adhere to the store policies as well as disciplinary actions set within it). Layout any other details that may be required to actually hire the person, this includes drug tests, background checks, or terms of employment (you may want to consider a 45 day “Probational” period where either party has the option to leave the company with no recourse, I will discuss this and other details terms of employment in my next post).
G) The Final Step
Congratulations, you have just hired the best employee that you possibly could have found. After you are sure that you are going to keep the person you hired, give the other people you interviewed a call and let them know that you hired the position, but that you will keep their application on file in the event that you need another employee in the near future
Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment.
What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?
What were your starting and final levels of compensation?
What were your responsibilities?
What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
What have you learned from your mistakes?
What did you like or dislike about your previous job?
Which was most / least rewarding?
What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position?
What was it like working for your supervisor?
What do you expect from a supervisor?
What problems have you encountered at work?
Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
Who was your best boss and who was the worst?
Why are you leaving your job?
Why did you resign?
Why did you quit your job?
What have you been doing since your last job?
Why were you fired?
Job Interview Questions About You
What is your greatest weakness?
What is your greatest strength?
How will your greatest strength help you perform?
How would you describe yourself?
Describe a typical work week.
Describe your work style.
Do you take work home with you?
How many hours do you normally work?
How would you describe the pace at which you work?
How do you handle stress and pressure?
What motivates you?
Are you a self motivator?
What are your salary expectations?
What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
Tell me about yourself.
What has been the greatest disappointment in your life?
What are your pet peeves?
What do people most often criticize about you?
If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently?
If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say?
Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
Give some examples of teamwork.
What type of work environment do you prefer?
How do you evaluate success?
If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it?
Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it.
Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.
Job Interview Questions About the New Job and the Company
What interests you about this job?
Why do you want this job?
What applicable attributes / experience do you have?
What can you do for this company?
Why should we hire you?
Why are you the best person for the job?
What do you know about this company?
What challenges are you looking for in a position?
What can you contribute to this company?
Are you willing to travel?
What is good customer service?
How long do you expect to remain employed with this company?